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How to avoid the hazards related to construction work at heights

Rapid Access, which owns 30% of the AWPs in the Middle East, says the culture of construction safety must come from the top

Rapid Access has been in the Middle East since the 1990s.
pmvmiddleeast.com
Rapid Access has been in the Middle East since the 1990s.

Erecting scaffolding or hiring aerial work platforms (AWPs) are not complete solutions when it comes to working at heights. In fact, all over the world, organisations involved in working at height face huge safety and skills gaps, and the Middle East is no exception.

Slips, trips, and falls are among the most common causes of workplace injuries, and are also the most likely to result in death. Irrespective of whether operators have qualifications to erect scaffolding or operate AWPs, they must also improve their competency and familiarity with the machines if they are to ensure worker safety.

Managing director of the Middle East and international at Rapid Access, Paul Rankin, says the most common safety process that is ignored by contractors is the investment in continuous education. He points out that knowledge of best practices and an appreciation of the skills needed when working at height should not be limited to staff deployed on site. They must be initiated and, crucially, driven from the top down.

“AWPs are recognised as the safest means of working at height, but the most important service we offer our customers is education,” he says, according to Construction Week's sister title PMV Middle East.

“Improving site safety is as much about educating company management to make the right decisions, select the right equipment, and ensure the correct processes and procedures are in place, as it is about ensuring operators are qualified to operate machines.”

Since the beginning of [2018], almost 100 customers have started to use our SkySentry product to help improve their site operations.

Rapid Access, which has been operating in the Middle East since the 1990s, has emerged as a reliable supplier of training related to working at height, and says that more than 50% of Middle East operators have received training through the company’s programmes.

The company serves the Middle East region through its depots in every GCC country, and its footprint extends to North and East Africa, India, and Western Asia. Rankin says the company’s rental fleet has grown 40%, to more than 4,000 AWPs, representing about three in every 10 AWPs in the Middle East.

“Rapid Access is more than just a rental equipment and training company. We serve as consultants for working at height operations,” Rankin adds. 

Since 2011, Rapid Access has developed more than 25 products to increase safety and efficiency, or to tackle specific customer problems. Two examples of such products are SkySiren and SkySentry.

SkySiren was designed to reduce the likelihood of serious injury due to entrapment in boom-type AWPs. It has since been mandated by large contractors and organisations worldwide, and can be found on many sites in the GCC. SkySentry, launched in 2018, helps prevent unauthorised equipment use and improves machine efficiency.

“We have achieved the biggest technological advancements in after-market solutions such as SkySiren and SkySentry. Since the beginning of [2018], almost 100 customers have started to use our SkySentry product to help improve their site operations,” Rankin says.

Paul Rankin, Rapid Access [image: pmvmiddleeast.com].

He adds that most of the emerging product development and technological advancements in the AWP industry will be in the fields of electrical systems, and maintenance procedures that will benefit the rental market, similar to those found in the automotive industry.

This is important because the number of companies providing AWP rental solutions has increased in recent years, reflecting the increasing standards of health and safety, and the growing awareness about AWPs within the region, he explains.

The AWP rental market is growing globally, and there is no reason to expect the Middle East to perform any differently, Rankin adds. He expects that regional AWP fleets will continue to shift towards smaller-sized equipment, as companies become more aware of the efficiency and safety benefits of AWPs in areas such as the facilities management and mechanical and electrical sectors.

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